Health Encyclopedia

Intestines

Intestines

Picture of intestines

The intestine (bowel) is the long, winding, tube that is part of the digestive tract. The intestine helps to process food, extract and absorb nutrients and water, and eliminate waste.

The intestine is divided into two main parts:

  • The small intestine (small bowel) receives food from the lower end of the stomach and continues to digest it before passing it into the large intestine. The small intestine is about 20 ft (6.1 m) to 23 ft (7 m) long and about 1 in. (2.5 cm) wide.
  • The large intestine (large bowel) absorbs chemicals (such as sodium and chloride), nutrients, and water from the digested food. It also prepares waste (stool) to be expelled from the body. The large intestine is also called the colon. It is about 5 ft (1.5 m) to 6 ft (1.8 m) long and about 3 in. (7.6 cm) wide.
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Arvydas D. Vanagunas, MD - Gastroenterology
Last Revised April 26, 2012

Last Revised: April 26, 2012

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Arvydas D. Vanagunas, MD - Gastroenterology

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